“Man, after all my grandma put into me learning the piano, that was a hard day telling her I was telling jokes for a living.”—Jamie Foxx, American actor, comedian, and singer.
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The call for “words of wisdom” at any Thursday Center Noon Lions Club meeting is an invitation to share a joke. However, it also closes the door on any appropriateness of behavior or conduct the group may have followed to that point.
The moments of fun are a break from the long hours and hard work by the local civic club raising money. Money that goes back into the community aiding charities, schools, children’s eyeglasses, and children with health problems, as well as assisting with building baseball, softball, and soccer fields in recent years.
It usually starts with something like, “My IQ test results came back. Good news—they were negative.” Or maybe, “What’s the difference between an outlaw and an in-law? Outlaws are wanted.” Longer jokes are also endured with anticipation of a good laugh.
Telling a joke at Lions Club is a “you’re on your own” proposition. Humor is graded by a system of laughter, boos, or a barrage of flying objects—primarily wadded-up napkins. The ultimate penalty for a bad joke is a fine from the club’s “tail twister,” Danny Paul Windham, who often offers the first words of wisdom himself. But it’s all fun and considered a less-than-clinical medicine for stress relief.
Comedian Milton Berle is credited with coining the line about laughter being the best medicine. There must have been something to that. The iconic funny guy died in 2002 just short of his 94th birthday with a career spanning more than 80 years.
I’ve always believed humor was medicinal. It’s certainly added a healthy element to the Center Lion’s Club since I first joined in 1980. With one-liners being the more popular form of funnies offered, the organization’s words of wisdom sessions are not unlike a popular form of humor during Berle’s early days, burlesque shows.
“Thrilling” was the term I once heard long-time Texas humorist, musician, and motivational speaker Doc Blakely use to describe burlesque. His reference, of course, was more to the risque element of the traveling shows typically found at carnivals back in the day. Blakely’s view was that of a youngster trying to sneak in to see the show. He likened burlesque to a combination of comics in baggy pants and girls in skintight outfits. “I never saw skin that tight,” he recalled, “or at that age, knew that girls had so much of it.”
Although 16 was the legal age to buy a ticket, he recalled that it wasn’t difficult to sneak in. Blakely’s story centered on the time he managed to sneak into one of the shows visiting town only to be discovered by his father. While he was being reprimanded for passing himself off as 16 when he had, in fact, just turned 14, his dad warned him of the evils of the burlesque show. “You might see something you shouldn’t,” he told his son.
“You’re right dad,” he told his father. “I did see something I shouldn’t have. I saw you in there.”
With his story, Blakely also offered a few modern burlesque-style one-liners that have almost certainly been heard at a local Lions Club meeting.
“They say football is our national pastime. And what the Dallas Cowboys play is pretty popular too.”
“What did one DNA say to the other DNA? Do these genes make me look fat?”
“I never knew what happiness was until I got married—and by then, it was too late.”
For all its glory as a venue of humor and tough audiences, however, the Lions Club may have been outdone last week by guest speaker Shelby County Judge Allison Harbison. After enduring the organization’s weekly dose of words of wisdom, she began with some of her own.
“I see now why this is an all-man group,” the judge began. “I’ve been a blonde all my life,” she said with a smile. “So, I tend to like blonde jokes. Do you know why so many blonde jokes are one-liners?”
Getting no response after a few seconds, she said, “So men can understand them.”
The semi-official Lions Club rating system gave the judge much laughter and applause, sparing her any boos or tossed napkins. Not even a fine.
“I remember every one of your jokes … and I’ll use them later,” is also credited to Milton Berle. However, we’ll wait to see if that one ever resurfaces at Lions Club.
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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune, the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, the Alpine Avalanche, and The Fort Stockton Pioneer.
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